Cardiovascular Exercise Principles & Guidelines
by Chad Tackett
Frequency of Exercise
The first component of cardiovascular exercise is frequency of the exercise, which refers to the number of exercise sessions per week. To improve both cardiovascular fitness and to decrease body fat or maintain body fat at optimum levels, you should exercise (cardiovascularly) at least three days a week. The American College of Sports Medicine
recommends three to five days a week for most cardiovascular programs. Those of you who are very out of shape and/or who are overweight and doing weight-bearing cardiovascular exercise such as an aerobics class or jogging, might want to have at least 36 to 48 hours of rest between workouts to prevent an injury and to promote adequate bone and joint stress recovery.
Duration of Exercise
The second component of cardiovascular exercise is the duration, which refers to the time you've spent exercising. The cardiovascular session, not including the warm-up and cool-down, should vary from 20-60 minutes to gain significant cardiorespiratory and fat burning-benefits. Each time you do your cardiovascular exercise, try to do at least 20 minutes or more. Of course, the longer you go, the more calories and fat you'll "burn" and the better you'll condition your cardiovascular system. All beginners, especially those who are out of shape, should take a very conservative approach and train at relatively low intensities (50-70% max HR) for 10-25 minutes. As you get in better shape, you can gradually increase the duration of time you exercise.
It is important that you gradually increase the duration before you increase the intensity. That is, when beginning a walking program for example, be more concerned with increasing the number of minutes of the exercise session before you increase the intensity, by increasing your speed or by walking hilly terrain.
In the following parts I'll discuss how to monitor your training intensity and how to use heart zone training to achieve the specific results you desire. Until then, remember that cardiovascular exercise should be done a minimum of three times a week and a minimum of 20 minutes per session. Once your muscles are warm (after warm up) and after the cardiovascular exercise, you should stretch those muscles used in the exercise. For example, after bicycling, stretch your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, hips, and low back. After doing the rowing machine, stretch your legs, back, biceps, and shoulders. Good luck and enjoy all the wonderful benefits of cardiovascular exercise.